Aztecs Essay, Research Paper
AztecsAn example of monumental archetecture within the Aztec society is the great pyramid ofTenochtitlan. It was created by the revered speaker Montecuzoma I, who was the ruler ofthe Aztecs in 1466. The pyramid was not finished until the rule of Montecuzoma II,around 1508. (Carrasco, Moctezumas Mexico, Pg 49.)The pyramid was known to the Aztecs as the “icpac tlamanacali,” or The Great Pyramid. It’s base was square, and 150 yards to a side. It rose toa height of 70 yards, and hadsmooth sides. The staircase ascending the front was actually two staircases, one for peoplegoing up and one for people going down. The staircases were separated by an ornamentalgutter for blood to flow down. The pyramid was used as an sacrificial altar on whichpeople were sacrificed to the gods, known to the Aztecs as the “Flowery Death.”(Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 92.)The temporal and spiritual heart of the Aztec empire was the island capital ofTenochtitlan, and more specifically, it’s ceremonial precinct and the Great Pyramid.Crisscrossed by canals paralleled by streets, it was described by the conquistadors as”another Venice.” Like that country, the ready access to water transport made heavycommerce a reality. It is said that 200,000 canoes could be found on the lake in the early16th century. (Coe, Atlas of Ancient America, pg 125.)It is difficult to estimate the size of the city when Cortes first arrived but it is estimated at 100,000 with the Aztec empire containing more then 10 million. (Coe, Atlas of Ancient America, pg 128.)Unlike European provinces, Aztec cities and towns had working drinking water andwaste treatment systems. An intricate plumbing system using clay pipes ran down from themountains around Mexico valley to all of the towns and cities in the valley. As the waterran into each town or city it was the dispersed to 10 or 12 places around town were itflowed into a pool for drinking water or was piped into public baths and toilets. Onlynobles had working drinking and bathing systems with running water in thier homes. Thesewage system worked much like today, having human wastes carried to a collection poolwere solid’s were collected, and then having liquids run off into a series of terraces whichfiltered the water. Solid wastes were allowed to sit in a collection pool for about sixmonths and then were brought to the lake gardens to be used as fertilizer. Some of thewaste management practices used by the Aztecs are stil used today. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg220.)Social Structure- Uey-Tlatoani Pipiltin Macehaultin Tlacotli The Aztec social structure contained four well defined classes. At the bottom of the heapwere slaves and serfs, or the Tlacotli, who worked the private lands of the nobility. Nextcame the Macehualtin, “the fortunate,” as they were called because they were equally freeof the heavy responsibility of the nobility and of the slaves liability to being basely used. They were the merchants, shopkeepers and artisans that made up the bulk of thepopulation. The Macehualtin belonged to localized kin groups known as calpulli or “bighouses,” each of which had it’s own lands, clan leaders, and temple. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg354.) After that came the hereditary nobility or Pipiltin, who supplied the top bureaucrats in theAztec imperial system, and from whose ranks was a formed a council which advised theemperor and elected his successor from the ruling lineage. Also all of the nobility had thesound “ztin” added to the end of their name. At the very top of the ladder was the Uey-Tlatoani, or revered speaker. He had absolutecontrol over civil affairs and it was his job to increase the size of the Aztec empire everyyear and if he didn’t wage enough wars within a period of time he would be impeached andreplaced by the Pipiltin. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World. Pg 268) The Aztec government consisted of principally of the leadership of the royal house andthe vast bureaucracy backed by it. The Uey-Tlatoani dealed mainly with external affairs ofthe Aztec empire such as starting wars and making peace treaties. Also there was aparallel ruler, another member of the royal lineage, known as the Cihuacoatl. He dealtmainly with the internal affairs of Tenochtitlan such as the water system and the justicesystem. The bureaucracy was set into place by the nobles and performed the same functionthat civil servants perform today. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, 195.) To maintain the empire the Aztec government made the territories it conquered tributetwice yearly. Taxes were collected from the territories also and careful accounts were keptof what territories had to pay. The heavy taxation and forced tribute disgruntled manyterritories. When Hernan Cortes arrived in the early 1500’s they were happy to help him asspies and informants. (Blacker, Cortez and The Aztec Conquest, 143.) Aztec religion was based on the worship of many gods, but the most important was the
sun god. Aztec preists werenot allowed to bathe or wash ever during thier time as a priest. This resulted in the priestsbecoming encrusted with blood and excretements over time. The Great Pyramid was built as a sacrificeing platform to the gods. At the very top was aaltar and a statue of the sun god, which had a hollow body in which the preists placedthere victims heart. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, Pg 197.) Every year Tenochtitlan launched a “Flowery War,” in which mock battle’s would takeplace for the sole purpose of taking prisoners. Usually the wars were small betweenprovinces in the empire but one year a large war with an overwhelming defeat by theprovince of Tenochtitlan took place and it is estimated that between 10 and 80THOUSAND prisoners were taken. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 436.) After a “Flowery War,” prisoners were marched back to a provinces capital and put to a”Flowery Death.” That is, being sacrificed to the gods. In theds, but the most importantwas the sun god. Aztec preists werenot allowed to bathe or wash ever during thier time as a priest. This resulted in the priestsbecoming encrusted with blood and excretements over time. The Great Pyramid was built as a sacrificeing platform to the gods. At the very top was aaltar and a statue of the sun god, which had a hollow body in which the preists placedthere victims heart. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, Pg 197.) Every year Tenochtitlan launched a “Flowery War,” in which mock battle’s would takeplace for the sole purpose of taking prisoners. Usually the wars were small betweenprovinces in the empire but one year a large war with an overwhelming defeat by theprovince of Tenochtitlan took place and it is estimated that between 10 and 80THOUSAND prisoners were taken. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 436.) After a “Flowery War,” prisoners were marched back to a provinces capital and put to a”Flowery Death.” That is, being sacrificed to the gods. In the year that Tenochtitlan tookall those prisoners it took the preists one full week to put to death all the prisoners withoutstopping. It is said that the area around The great pyramid “turned into a lake of blood andthe piles of bodies were taller then the building’s.” (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 328.) The center of the Aztec empire is the City of Tenochtitlan, an island on the five lakes inthe Mexican valley. The Mixteca, the Aztecs ancestors, believed in a prophecy that theregreat capital and the future center of the world was to be established on a swampy island,were there would be an eagle seated on a prickly-pair cactus holding a serpent in it’s beak. The Mixteca acted as mercenaries for one power or another until they fulfilled theprophecy and settled on what would become “the center of the one world.” The Mixtecathen changed there name to the Aztec’s and started conquering other powers around thegreat lake, which is actually divided into six separate lakes. After conquering the otherpowers it rewrote there texts making the Aztecs glorified and seem as if they had alwaysbeen the dominant power in the area.(Coe, Atlas of Ancient America, Pg 130.) The Aztec empire relied heavily on the six lakes. The lakes provided food by irrigatingthe floating crops and by the fish and fowl that the hunters could collect, providedtransportation for heavy loads and people, and alsofortified Tenochtitlan from invaders. The mountains surrounding the valley provided clean drinking water, snow for merchantsto sell in the city, and also made another barrier for invaders. The next geographic feature is the desert to the north. Without hard times in the desert,the Mixteca would never have had emigrated to the valley and formed the Aztec empire. The oceans to either side of the empire brought precious dyes and paints to the Pohteca,Aztec traders. It also brought about the end of the Aztec empire by bringing the Spanish. These different elements show how the Aztec culture flourished for so long, but also theyalso show how it brought about the Aztecs end. Without these characteristics, the Aztecswould have never developed into the huge empire and culture that they became. The Aztec empire is now gone, along with almost all of the excellent works that theculture created, the great lake, the center of the one world, and most of the Aztecmonuments have been buried under the slums of what is now known as Mexico city. Thefew artifacts that did survive, only did so because they were placed in a museum or buriedand dug up recently. What a sad ending for what was once the most prosperous nation inLatin America. One thing has survived though, the Aztec language, Nahuatl. May it lastforever in defiance of the ones who tried to wipe it from the face of the earth. References: Blacker, Irwan R. Cortes and the Aztec conquest. New York: American Heritage, 1978. Carrasco, David, Eduardo Moctezuma, Scott Sessions. Niwot Colorado: Univesity pressof Colorado, 1992. Pg 49. Coe, Micheal, Elizibeth Benson. Atlas of Ancient America. New York: Equinox, 1986. Pg 125, 128, 130, 146. Jennings, Gary. Aztec. Avon, 1980. Pg 92, 220, 329, 354, 436. Oliphant, Margaret. Atlas of the Ancient World. Simon & Shuster, 1992. Pg 195, 197,268.